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Thread: School me on press cameras.

  1. #11

    Join Date
    Dec 2014
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    Iowa City, Iowa
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    961

    Re: School me on press cameras.

    I have used Crown Graphics for decades, hand held with a rangefinder for focusing. One camera has the Kalart RF the other is a Pacemaker top rangefinder. The top rangefinder model is outstanding, bright RF has the cool flashlight focuspot thingy for focusing in the dark (it really works).
    Press cameras were used with pre focusing on where you expected your subject to be and used long burning enormous flashbulbs.
    A speed graphic allows to use barrel lenses but then your RF becomes pointless. I love the Crowns because they are so light.

    You need to use the factory calibrated len, my have 135mm Xenars. I shoot Tmax 400, sunny 16 500th @f/16. Handheld zone focus easy as pie.

    I use my simple no battery Fuji 6x9 rangefinders, for same stuff, helluva lot easier, but I love my Crowns.

  2. #12
    Moderator
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    Jan 2001
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    7,298

    Re: School me on press cameras.

    The issue here isn't that the OP wants to use a Graphic. It's that he wants to use it hand-held, at or near open aperture, at relatively close range. Put it on a tripod or put a big flash on it and stop down to f/16, or go out in bright sun at f/16, and it's a whole different ballgame.

    There's no reason the rangefinder on a Speed is any less useful with barrel lenses. On the contrary, it's more of a nuisance to focus on the ground glass with a barrel lens on a Speed, because you have to go through the rigmarole of opening the focal plane shutter for focusing and then resetting it. Try doing that while maintaining accurate focus hand-held at close range and open aperture.

  3. #13

    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    1,115

    Re: School me on press cameras.

    With good calibration, the Kalart RF is usable at it's minimum focus distance (4ft) wide open, handheld. I know since I've done it many times, and with fairly fast lenses too (shallow DOF) like an aero ektar or xenotar 135. Other press cameras that have rangefinders include the Meridian 45A/B/C, which usually have a kalart rangefinder. Also some other interesting unique options that other press cameras don't have, like the extending back (ala Linhof Technika) and all-metal construction.

  4. #14

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    Feb 2001
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    Blue Jay, CA
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    2,251

    Re: School me on press cameras.

    If in working condition, and nearly all of them are even after all these years, the side-mount Kalart can be calibrated to one lens (and one only) and be quite accurate from 4' to infinity. Just follow the old Graphic instructions and don't cut corners. Pay particular attention to the instruction about the height of the target (guy with the hat). When you're done, follow the procedure a second time and then verify it with the ground glass. Unless you really bang the camera around they stay in calibration, but check it every now and then. There is one adjusting screw with a clearly labeled reverse thread on it, and even with the instruction right there on the thing it is counter-intuitive and people strip the screw and that is trouble.

    A proper bed scale for your focal length can be handy too for candids. That way you don't lose the moment while fiddling with the camera while pointing it at the subject. You can pre-focus for distance, then frame it up and take the picture. If you can estimate distances (and can live with stopping down a little) the bed scale is really useful. There hasn't been a viewfinder made that is as sharp and clear as the sports-finder / hoop...

    I've also preferred the Crown due to the smaller size and weight. Hopefully you can get the in-body release to work with whatever shutter you are using. This can take some work on modern shutters because the horizontal lever needs to be a little longer than for the original standard lenses, but it can be done. That way you don't have to fumble with a cable release.

  5. #15
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: School me on press cameras.

    Another site with good information on the Graphic system is https://graflex.org/. I've long used the book, Graphic Graflex Photography for more extensive information. It was first published in 1940. The eighth edition of 1947 is the first to cover the Crown with side rangefinder, and the 11th edition of 1958 is the first to cover the top rangefinder Crown.

  6. #16

    Re: School me on press cameras.

    I recently picked up a cheap, very funky looking, wartime Anniversary Speed Graphic thinking I could use if for parts. Of course I couldn't leave it alone and got it cleaned up and working nicely. The only reason I mention this is that I was stunned at the accurate adjustment of the rangefinder to the uncoated 127 Ektar. Dead on from minimum focus to infinity. So I guess they can be adjusted to that level; I'd just never seen it before, or managed it myself. This one looks to still be factory adjustment.

    And don't rule out the 127 Ektar. I used to be dismissive of these, but they are a very fine lens. I kind of like the uncoated one that came on this camera for the sharp but smooth look; when coated they have excellent contrast. This would be a nice focal length for environmental portraits and is the most common focal length I see on Speed and Crown Graphics. I have both and they are nicely sharp in the center wide open.

  7. #17
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Dec 2011
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    13,239

    Re: School me on press cameras.

    WeeGee shot often by distance. His camera was set to focus at 10 feet SOME of the time. and he used big flashbulbs so he could stop down for more DOF.

    https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/c.../all/all/all/0

    I have a plastic 4X5 that I marked focus at 5 ft and only aim through a steel wire finder. No GG, no RF needed.

    This was shot handheld, at estimated 5 ft with one flash bulb on B&W film, but scanned in color which gives it a unique 'look'.

    1-1-Green What by TIN CAN COLLEGE, on Flickr
    sin eater

  8. #18

    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    538

    Re: School me on press cameras.

    [QUOTE=Oren Grad;1499638]
    "But honestly, I think hand-held 4x5 at open aperture is the wrong tool for environmental portraiture."

    Here's a head and shoulders photograph of my daughter with her horse. TRF Crown in "Big Shot" mode with 210mm 5.6 Fujinon W, wide open or close to it. Vivitar 285 with bounce card.Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Amanda Bullet Big Shot 210 LR.jpg 
Views:	50 
Size:	57.9 KB 
ID:	191387Click image for larger version. 

Name:	TRF Big Shot.JPG 
Views:	47 
Size:	137.5 KB 
ID:	191388

  9. #19

    Join Date
    May 2019
    Posts
    25

    Re: School me on press cameras.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    If you're determined to try it, the most lightweight 4x5 rangefinder that's readily available would be a Polaroid 110 conversion. The original-equipment lenses on those - typically 127mm - definitely do *not* cover 4x5 with edge-to-edge sharpness at open aperture, but you can have a conversion set up with a modern plasmat with better coverage.
    Sounds very interesting. I did a search on Ebay and found a few very confusing offers for conversions. Who would you recommend? Can you provide me with a link? Thanks for the suggestion!

  10. #20

    Join Date
    May 2019
    Posts
    25

    Re: School me on press cameras.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Crisp View Post
    If in working condition, and nearly all of them are even after all these years, the side-mount Kalart can be calibrated to one lens (and one only) and be quite accurate from 4' to infinity. Just follow the old Graphic instructions and don't cut corners. Pay particular attention to the instruction about the height of the target (guy with the hat). When you're done, follow the procedure a second time and then verify it with the ground glass. Unless you really bang the camera around they stay in calibration, but check it every now and then. There is one adjusting screw with a clearly labeled reverse thread on it, and even with the instruction right there on the thing it is counter-intuitive and people strip the screw and that is trouble.

    A proper bed scale for your focal length can be handy too for candids. That way you don't lose the moment while fiddling with the camera while pointing it at the subject. You can pre-focus for distance, then frame it up and take the picture. If you can estimate distances (and can live with stopping down a little) the bed scale is really useful. There hasn't been a viewfinder made that is as sharp and clear as the sports-finder / hoop...

    I've also preferred the Crown due to the smaller size and weight. Hopefully you can get the in-body release to work with whatever shutter you are using. This can take some work on modern shutters because the horizontal lever needs to be a little longer than for the original standard lenses, but it can be done. That way you don't have to fumble with a cable release.
    I read somewhere that the Crowns with the top-mounted rangefinders can have a fine-tuning adjustment, but now I can't find where I read it. Do you know if the top-mounted Crowns can be adjusted? I understand they use the cam mated to the lens, but I read somewhere you can fiddle with the linkage to more accurately fine tune the system.

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